Last coastal city holdout may reconsider smoking ban

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is expected to re-evaluate in December its decision not to ban restaurant patio smoking.

City Council considered a no-smoking ordinance in June 2013, but the item did not receive a motion for a vote. Oceanside is the only North County coastal city that still allows smoking in outdoor dining areas.

It is anticipated a no-smoking ban will be looked at again this December after recently elected Councilman Chuck Lowery is sworn in to office.

Councilman Jerry Kern, who spoke against a smoking ban in 2013, said campaigning is underway to bring the item back to City Council.

Last week Vista Community Clinic representatives made presentations on the dangers of secondhand smoke at the MainStreet Oceanside and Oceanside Chamber of Commerce meetings.

Gena Knutson, Vista Community Clinic tobacco control program manager, said a fact sheet on effects of secondhand smoke was shared. Survey data was also presented that showed San Diego County restaurants that banned smoking did not suffer business loss, and in some cases increased business.

At the MainStreet Oceanside meeting a spirited and lengthy discussion followed the presentation.

Kern objected to a no-smoking ordinance. He said the decision should be left up to restaurant owners.

In a later interview, Kern said the fact that two-thirds of Oceanside restaurants voluntarily prohibit smoking shows an ordinance is not needed.

“We don’t need more regulations,” Kern said.

He added the handful of restaurants that choose to allow outdoor smoking should be allowed to continue.

Knutson said regulations are needed to protect restaurant employees who must endure hours of secondhand smoke to serve customers.

“People have individual rights, but your action could be harmful to me, or hurting me, if you’re affecting my right to breath clean air,” Knutson said.

Knutson said reconsidering a ban has not been put on the City Council agenda yet. She added the clinic plans to provide information to City Council members.

“We’ll see where we go from there,” Knutson said. “I hope Oceanside city leaders embrace this. We’ve had a very positive response from other cities.”

Oceanside’s 2013 ordinance proposed to ban smoking on restaurant patios adjacent to public streets and sidewalks, but allowed smoking on dining patios on the second floor and private property.

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